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federalism


Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


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[1] A term whose often contested and ambiguous meaning is partly explained by its derivation from nothing more specific than the Latin foedus (“league” or “covenant”). It tends to apply, most readily but not exclusively in situations of competing ethnicity, to arrangements whereby some central form of government over a given territory exists alongside at least two, and often many more, regional authorities that also lay claim to statehood or at least to a significant measure of provincial autonomy. Within such federations the balance of power as between center and periphery has varied according to time and circumstance. Thus we find “federal” being confusingly applied sometimes to the more centralizing and sometimes to the more decentralizing aspects of the interaction. Where the emphasis falls on structures aimed at strict limitation of central control alternative resort has often been made to the term “confederation.” This is, most notably, the label still applied to the constitutional framework for switzerland , which ever since the late thirteenth century has provided for a significant degree of cantonal autonomy (albeit one somewhat eroded over recent decades). Greater fluctuation in the balance between central and periphery has characterized most of the course of modern German history (see e.g. confederation of the rhine ; german confederation ; federal republic of ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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